Where to begin?

I mean this question in relation to both the lectionary theme(s) and the individual texts for this coming Eighth Sunday after Pentecost.

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Where to begin identifying your sermon from such a rich list of texts offering an abundance of themes?

the shepherd & sheep image — implicit within any story of the shepherd-turned-king David (2 Samuel 7:1-14a, Psalm 23 and Psalm 89:20-37 this Sunday), continuing through Jeremiah’s warning against shepherds who scatter their sheep (23:1-6); and reflecting Jesus’ compassion for the crowds like a shepherd (Mark 6:30-34, 53-56)

the false equivalency of greatness with faithfulness — God in 2 Samuel assures David of his greatness and of their great relationship yet still denies David the task of building the temple; Jeremiah scornfully pronounces that “shepherd” does not by its title alone make a leader faithful to God or to the people; the subtle challenge of Ephesians 2:11-22 to our secret ambitions to be greater than, as faithfulness requires us to live instead as undivided equal people; the faithfulness of the apostles to Jesus’s never-ending work as his greatness increased (Mark 6)

God’s steadfast presence — always a preachable theme and found in 2 Samuel 7:6-7, Psalm 23:2-3, Psalm 89:28, Jeremiah 23:3, Ephesians 2:13, Mark 6:34 & 56

the necessary interconnectedness of our relationships with God and with others — from the apostles who long for a retreat with Jesus but instead spend their days serving alongside him (Mark 6), to the building-together of all people as one structure that is a dwelling for God (Ephesians 2), to the ways that King David succeeded and that Jeremiah’s shepherds failed to gather the people as one nation to the glory of God’s name.

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“Where to begin” is also a question raised in the texts individually:

Where to begin building the temple? (2 Samuel)

Where to begin gathering the remnant of the flock? (Jeremiah 23)

Where to begin if your trust in God has been shaken or shattered? (Psalm 23)

Where to begin relating to one another across the dividing wall that Christ has broken? (Ephesians 2)

Where to begin the work of healing when the need is so great? (Mark 6)

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So many options for sermonizing this week! Where will you begin, friends?

9 thoughts on “Revised Common Lectionary: Where To Begin

  1. This will be the third and final installment in my series “Encountering the Divine in Mark 6.” We did doubt/denial (how the Galileans doubted Jesus and so received little benefit), fear/feeling threatened (Herod’s fear of this person and his followers who he surmised to be the resurrected John the Baptist), and we’re closing with faith/trust.

    When we look at the way the people came to Jesus (even on his “time away”), we see that they had faith in Jesus. The response was compassion, and the people benefited.

    Likewise, when we’re willing to believe in that divine spark in others – perhaps people we might have otherwise doubted or feared – we may find ourselves blessed in surprising ways.

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  2. Looking back at a previous sermon, I played with the idea of “building the house.” David wanted to build a house, but God said no, rather that God would build David a house. The church has historically striven to “build the house,” but now we’re finding that fewer people are interested in/drawn to those houses. And then looking at the Mark text, we see that Jesus and the disciples did not sit in the house waiting for people to come but instead went out.

    My point was that things may be changing in the church, but that doesn’t mean that God has given up on the faith — and that maybe we need to be out and about more than sitting and waiting.

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  3. I am preaching on “No Longer Strangers” from Ephesians – on the dividing wall of hostility being broken down, and what is peace. I will re-use the theme hymn I wrote for the Horizons study on Ephesians 10 or so years ago, “No Longer Strangers.”

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  4. We have a big, splashy ordination service Sunday afternoon, so I am planning a short, quiet prayer service for those who need to have church at 10:30 Sunday morning. There won’t be a sermon, so I need a text that can stand on its own (or maybe with time for some lectio-type reflection). Maybe a Psalm or maybe the Gospel. I am drawn to David and the temple much as Jeanne says above, but I think that requires too much unpacking to hear the Good News (or maybe I don’t trust our people enough?). –Wendy

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  5. We have been hanging out with David all summer. This week, I am drawn to how we (like Dave) want to put God in a box, put ourselves in a box, and neatly package up all of this life stuff, and how God says, nah- I think I will go where I want and do what I want and totally shake up your understanding of everything, but it’s okay, because if you stick with me, if you ground yourself in me, we’ll be fine- you’ll be fine. Or something like that. Anyway, it’s where I am beginning. But then again, it’s only Wednesday….

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